News, politics, and media: how I experience news stories
News, in my mind, are recent events often tied to sadness and corruption. Throughout my childhood, I watched the news because my mom did, but I never enjoyed it except when I would see a face like Robin Roberts or Gayle King. I hated seeing loops of destruction and war replaying in cycles every five hours. During my last two years of high school, I listened intently to the radio more often, and soon I could instantly recognize Maria Hinojosa from “Latino USA’’ or Terry Gross from National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air.” I usually do not go out of my way to seek out news — I just wait until I hear about something, usually second-hand from a professor, friend, or someone’s re-post on social media. I rarely, if ever, choose to Google “news” or look up the “New York Times.” A Pew Research study from 2016 shows 18-29 year-olds are less than enthusiastic about news. The study reported that young adults are more likely to use social media to get news compared to older generations.
However, other reasons factor into young peoples’ disinterest in finding news, one of which is being overwhelmed. I, as a creative soul, usually try to maintain a positive attitude, and it can be really difficult when there is a constant bombardment of negative news. Often when looking for news, I find it is filled with sadness, corruption and tragedy. There are some outlets such as the Good News Network and the Good News section of “Today,” but an overwhelming majority of news focuses on the negative side.
Over the past week, I tracked each time I checked news intentionally or just through friends or social media. I was actually surprised to find myself looking up the “ New York Times” or recent events of my own accord. This, however, was in correlation to my “Fundamentals of Environmental Challenges” course (also known as “Tree Class”). On reflection, I noticed that I was looking at news articles that I cared about. For example, on Aug. 31, I wrote in my tracker, “Checked the ‘New York Times’ and read an op-ed on defunding the police and why there is little to no support from both Republicans and Democrats.” As a young Black woman who now knows more names of Black people that have been shot than amendments to the Constitution, I find this topic extremely nuanced and important. Moreover, I saw similarities with several of my friends who agree that they find news articles that speak to them more engaging because it relates to their identity or culture.
Also, my interest peaked when I was reading news that is related to art and poetry. I especially love animation, so I often check “ Cartoon Brew ” as a way to find out about indie artists and filmmakers and learn about new animation organizations. A recent study through Rutgers and Oxford University shows roughly 63% of “social natives” (people aged 18-24) use some form of social media or directly find news through an app. Another interesting fact is that young adults between 18 to 24 find the news to be untrustworthy because of misinformation. I think young people tend to be more skeptical of news sources when navigating what is reliable. It is a lot to go out of your way to find the truth; most people want to be able to trust the news they watch, read, or listen to without questioning the validity of statements. Being more aware and informed has been a goal of mine since freshman year. With this project, I felt the need to be more grounded in finding news, so twice I forced myself to look up news articles at random just to see if there was anything I wanted to click on. Finally, I landed on a story about an Afghan girl risking her life to play soccer. I felt encouraged to do more with my life and in general to re-evaluate the freedoms I do have that I have taken for granted.
News is powerful because the stories reporters tell are of hope and despair, of love, life, death and war, but most of all, they are real. It is more difficult then to mitigate how reliable sources are when you are overcome with emotion about a certain story or being told a story from only one perspective. Everyone has bias, including journalists, but the goal should be to think critically for ourselves while receiving information that is not attached to an agenda.
A variety of methods can be used to better help engage young adults with current events and the news. My friends and I agree that especially elevating more voices of color and having bite-sized news segments would alleviate some of the current barriers to engaging with the news. Growing up with a certain news outlet or station can heavily influence one’s idea of what is credible. I grew up with the “New York Times,” as I am sure many of us did, and throughout history the Times has held up through some drastic changes. Several Americans are slowly regaining their faith in news outlets but still not too sure, especially after COVID-19. There is no one-size-fits-all solution; youth tend to be active on social media, but that does not necessarily mean they are sharing news stories on their feeds or that they are well-informed. I think finding nuanced ways to incorporate multiple styles of journalistic storytelling into our internet landscape is what we need. A combination of truth-telling, easy and digestible headlines, and more diverse representation would help improve young people’s engagement with current events and news.